Pro­vin­cial forces put on high alert

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Mech Dara and Kong Meta

MIN­IS­TER of In­te­rior Sar Kheng yes­ter­day is­sued an or­der de­mand­ing that all pro­vin­cial gov­er­nors cre­ate a “standby work­ing group” to mon­i­tor the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in an­tic­i­pa­tion of un­rest fol­low­ing the op­po­si­tion party’s po­ten­tial dis­so­lu­tion later this week.

The Supreme Court is ex­pected to de­cide on Thurs­day whether to dis­solve the Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party, the King­dom’s largest op­po­si­tion party, af­ter the party and its lead­ers were ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment – ac­cu­sa­tions that are widely con­sid­ered po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

Kheng said the pro­vin­cial work­ing groups must “mon­i­tor and deal with any plot to top­ple the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment”.

“I would like to in­form the gov­er­nors to con­trol and mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion and solve any prob­lems quickly,” the direc­tive reads.

On Sun­day, the Koh Kong pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment de­clared it would take le­gal ac­tion against any of its cit­i­zens who en­tered Ph­nom Penh with the in­tent to demon­strate in sup­port of the CNRP, and the Min­istry of In­te­rior said that any demon­stra­tions at the Supreme Court would be blocked.

Vei Sa­mang, Kam­pong Speu pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor, said yes­ter­day that he would ed­u­cate his con­stituents against protest­ing, but didn’t ex­pect any prob­lems.

“We need to tell them not to vi­o­late the law . . . As the au­thor­ity, we need to do any­thing to main­tain pub­lic or­der, es­pe­cially fol­low­ing the or­ders of the Min­istry of In­te­rior,” said Sa­mang.

An­other re­cently ob­tained state­ment from the In­te­rior Min­istry or­dered the cre­ation of re­serve forces in ev­ery de­part­ment, be­gin­ning on Wed­nes­day and end­ing on Fri­day. The state­ment, from the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Or­der, re­quires that these forces main­tain readi­ness 24 hours a day.

Signed Novem­ber 8 by de­part­ment head Sek Phoumy, the vaguely worded state­ment de­mands that all de­part­ments be pre­pared to “mo­bilise forces to im­ple­ment or­ders when nec­es­sary”. The state­ment also says mem­bers of the re­serve forces “must wear com­bat uni­forms”.

Dur­ing this three-day pe­riod, ev­ery de­part­ment will make daily re­ports of the “sit­u­a­tion” to the cen­tral Pub­lic Or­der De­part­ment, and are en­cour­aged to make re­ports on spe­cific “in­ci­dents” when nec­es­sary.

Khieu Sopheak, in­te­rior min­istry spokesman, con­firmed the min­istry met yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

“The in­te­rior min­is­ter led the meet­ing to con­firm the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion for the in­fe­rior of­fi­cials so that they know more about the sit­u­a­tion. When they un­der­stand, they will sup­port the mea­sure,” Sopheak said.

Kirth Chan­tharith, spokesman for the Na­tional Po­lice, had noted on Sun­day that peace­ful protests were le­gal – they are pro­tected un­der both the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Law on Peace­ful Demon­stra­tions – and said that “when the sit­u­a­tion is calm, the Na­tional Po­lice are also calm”.

Yes­ter­day, he said it was nonethe­less im­por­tant for the force “to pre­pare to ful­fil their duty if nec­es­sary”.

He went on to say that po­lice can be “flex­i­ble”, and would make sure not to dis­turb Cam­bo­dia’s tourism in­dus­try.

Mu Sochua, deputy pres­i­dent of the CNRP, said the In­te­rior Min­istry’s moves were a show of force meant to in­tim­i­date.

“If the gov­ern­ment wants to show force against its own peo­ple [then] it is the gov­ern­ment it­self that cre­ates so­cial in­se­cu­rity,” she said in a mes­sage, adding that “any use and abuse of force to crack­down on civil lib­erty is state vi­o­lence against cit­i­zens”.

HENG CHIVOAN

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sar Kheng speaks at a fo­rum ear­lier this year at the In­te­rior Min­istry in Ph­nom Penh. In a direc­tive yes­ter­day, Kheng put pro­vin­cial po­lice forces on high alert.

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